I read a lot of translated fiction and a lot of crime fiction from around the world, and I regret to report that this semi-thriller from Turkey failed to connect with me. The story unfolds in chapters alternating between the first-person narrations of two very different characters. We meet a 27-year-old heir of a wealthy Turkish family leading s a meandering unfulfilled life of the mind until the death of his overbearing mother is the catalyst for him to dump his fiance and look into the murder of his father a decade and a half earlier. Meanwhile, the second is a poor orphan who grows up to be a moralistic contract killer. It's revealed in the early pages that the latter happens to be the killer of the former's father, and it's clear that the alternating chapters will eventually climax in a face to face meeting between the two.
However, before that happens, there is quite a bit of meandering around the forgotten landmarks, monuments, gravestones, and neighborhoods of old Istanbul, introspection, literary references galore, and even the postmodern appearance of the author as a fairly significant character in the story. The walking tour of Istanbul is likely to be of limited interest to readers who've not been to the city themselves. The introspection of the various characters is suffused with a kind of melancholy heaviness of spirit known in Turkish as "huzun" which weights the whole book down. The literary references (book titles, poems, authors, aphorisms, oh my!) accumulate in such profusion that they become rather obtrusive and overbearing. As for the author's appearance as a character in the story, well, that's either to your taste or isn't. In the end though, while bits and pieces are certainly interesting, there's nothing particularly thrilling about any of it. The author has written several other books, and at least one of these (Many and Many a Year Ago) is now available in English, but my appetite for more certainly wasn't whetted with this one.
Retired banker and self-confessed bibliophile Selçuk Altun made a belated entry onto the international literary scene in 2008 when this curious little crime thriller, more akin to Orhan Pamuk than Mehmet Murat Somer, became the first of his four publications to date to be translated into English.
The twisted tale alternates between narrators Arda, the recently liberated son of an Istanbul intellectual and an over-bearing mother, and Bedirhan, a worn-out assassin looking for escape, who both fall into the meta-literate manipulations of the vile Selçuk Altun, a Machiavellian puppet master novelist.
Altun confronts the age-old Turkish conflict between secular modernism and Islamic tradition with the psychological outpourings of his two opposing yet conjoined antagonists who spew forth literary references in their metaphysical battle that ends with a somewhat out-of-place tour of Istanbul's forgotten historical landmarks.
While not exactly a crime thriller in the traditional sense the slow and edgy revelations of the multi-layered links between A and B make for fascinating reading but the whole thing feels out of place divorced from the rest of the authors body of work which is all-to-briefly briefly referenced.
Might my father's ghost be watching this postmodern duel which would be ended by numbers?
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This is interesting in many ways. It's not much of a crime novel, although there are several murders. The scion of a wealthy family who has been dominated by his mother all his life rejoices at her death and slowly falls into passivity and ennui. A poor man becomes a hired killer and realises by and by that the assassinations he performs, ostensibly in the service of a higher morality and in the name of the Qur'an, are nothing more than in the cause of selfish vendettas of his masters. Naturally, the paths of both protagonists converge (entirely by means of a deus ex machina, a character in the book who is often called odious and is also named Selçuk Altun). What remains at the end? A rather delicious tour around the wonderful city of Istanbul, many references to mother-hating poetry by various authors, and a state of befuddlement in yours truly's mind.